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Million Mile Secrets reader, Patrick, commented:
Is it better to transfer Starwood points directly to United Airlines OR convert them to Marriott points and then transfer to United Airlines miles?
It’s typically NOT a good deal to transfer Starwood points directly to United Airlines. Because the transfer ratio isn’t favorable. You only get 1 United Airlines mile for every 2 Starwood points you transfer.
You’ll do better converting your Starwood points to Marriott points. Then, transfer Marriott points to United Airlines miles.
But there’s another way to use your Starwood or Marriott points for award flights on United Airlines, which might be the best deal!
I’ll share the 3 ways to convert Starwood and Marriott points to get a United Airlines award flight!f
Starwood and Marriott Points for United Airlines Flights
One of the reasons Starwood points are so valuable is because you get a 5,000 point transfer bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to one of their ~30 airline partners.
That said, United Airlines is one of the few Starwood airline partners that does NOT have a 1:1 ratio. Instead, the ratio is 2:1, which means you get 1 United Airlines mile for every 2 Starwood points you transfer.
So when you transfer 20,000 Starwood points to United Airlines, you get 12,500 United Airlines miles (20,000 Starwood points converts to 10,000 United Airlines miles + 2,500 bonus miles).
The only time I’d consider transferring Starwood points directly to United Airlines is if you’re just shy of having enough miles for an award flight. For example, if you need 1,250 United Airlines miles, you can transfer 2,500 Starwood points.
Keep in mind, there are minimum transfer requirements depending on your Starwood elite status. Here are the minimums:
Platinum elite members do NOT have a minimum requirement for airlines that have a 1:1 transfer ratio. But if the transfer ratio is 2:1, like United Airlines, you must transfer a minimum of 2 Starwood points.
Instead, here are 3 alternatives for folks looking to use Starwood or Marriott points for United Airlines award flights!
1. Transfer Starwood Points to a Star Alliance Partner Airline
Instead of selecting United Airlines as your Starwood transfer partner, you can choose a Star Alliance airline partner, like Air Canada or Singapore Airlines. Then use the partner airline’s miles to book a United Airlines award flight.
This is a better deal because Starwood points transfer to Air Canada and Singapore Airlines at 1:1 ratio. With the 5,000 point bonus, you’ll get 25,000 airline miles for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer.
And you can sometimes use fewer miles booking with a Star Alliance partner instead of directly with United Airlines.
For example, within North America (including mainland US and Canada) for United Airlines award flights, you’ll pay:
- 25,000 United Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award flight
- 50,000 United Airlines miles for a round-trip Business Class award flight
But with Singapore Airlines miles, you’ll pay:
- 25,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a round-trip coach award flight
- 40,000 Singapore Airlines miles for a round-trip Business Class award flight
With Air Canada, you’ll typically use the same number of miles for a United Airlines award flight as you would booking directly. You can check the Aeroplan award chart for prices. One advantage of transferring to Air Canada is you can book partner award flights online.
Remember, you can only use partner airline miles for a United Airlines award flight when “Saver” award seats are available.
And it takes up to 4 weeks for your Starwood points transfer request to complete. But in my experience you’ll see the miles after 2 to 10 days. With this in mind, it’s NOT a option for booking last-minute flights.
2. Convert Starwood Points to Marriott Points
You can convert Starwood points to Marriott points at a 1:3 ratio. So for every 1 Starwood point you transfer, you’ll get 3 Marriott points.
Then, you can transfer Marriott points directly to United Airlines miles. There’s no set ratio for Marriott point transfers. Instead, the number of United Airlines miles you’ll get depends on how many Marriott points you transfer.
As an example, you can convert 8,000 Starwood points to 24,000 Marriott points (1:3 ratio). Then, convert the Marriott points to 10,000 United Airlines miles as the above table shows.
This is much better than if you initially transferred 8,000 Starwood points directly to United Airlines. Because you would only get 4,000 United Airlines miles!
Keep in mind, it can take ~6 weeks for miles to be posted to your account. So this is NOT ideal for folks looking to book an award flight right away.
3. Book a Marriott Hotel + Air Package
Folks with Starwood points looking to get United Airlines miles can also transfer points to Marriott and book a 7-night Marriott Hotel + Air Package.
For example, you could transfer 84,000 Starwood points to 252,000 Marriott points (1:3 ratio). That’s more than enough points to book a 7-night stay at a Category 1 to 5 Marriott hotel AND get 110,000 United Airlines miles.
Keep in mind, you do NOT have to book a hotel stay right away. So you could use the 110,000 United Airlines miles for an upcoming trip. Then, use your 7-night certificate for a stay anytime within 1 year from the date of issue.
Here’s a post with highly rated Marriott hotels you can stay using your 7-night certificate!
Earn Starwood & Marriott Points
You can earn Marriott or Starwood points directly with one of their credit cards.
With the AMEX Starwood card, you earn 25,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. So with the 1:3 transfer ratio, you can convert the sign-up bonus to 75,000 Marriott points.
Note: You’re only eligible to earn AMEX sign-up bonuses once per card per lifetime.
Or you can earn 80,000 Marriott points when you sign-up for the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card and spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.
Keep in mind, the Chase Marriott card is impacted by the bank’s tougher application rules.
Because of the less favorable transfer ratio (2:1), I do NOT recommend transferring Starwood points directly to United Airlines.
Instead, you can transfer Starwood points to a Star Alliance airline partner with a 1:1 transfer ratio, like Air Canada or Singapore Airlines. Then, book a United Airlines award flight.
Thanks for the question, Patrick!